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Two years ago, Muc-Off launched a new service called “Chain Optimisation.”  What this service involves is taking a slightly used chain and applying their Chain Optimisation process and making it more efficient and therefore faster.

In a sport where every detail is scrutinised to gain maximum performance, I decided to put my chain through Muc-Off’s Chain Optimisation service and see what differences it made.  Before getting to the test, it’s worth understanding what this process involves.

Process explained

How the process works is that a worn chain (with ideally 500km of use) is cleaned by being placed into Muc-Off’s Ultrasonic Tank.  The tank emits high-frequency sound waves that pulse through cleaning liquid, removing any dirt from deep within the chain. Next, High-Pressure Quick Drying Degreaser is applied that leaves the surface clean, before lubrication is applied, which is key.


Each process is important in its own right, but the lubrication process is vital and deserves its own explanation.

For the lubrication process, Muc-Off use their Ludicrous AF or Hydrodynamic lube.  As the Engineers explained “The lube is gently heated to the precise temperature required to create the optimum viscosity for the lube to penetrate deep into all contact points within the chain links.” 

The next part is fascinating as the Engineers note that “The lubricants themselves contain organic friction modifiers, which with their polarised heads and nonpolarised tails, attach themselves to either side of the base oil’s surface to form a low-friction shear plane. It’s this combination of formulation and application which results in reduced friction, increasing the amount of watts making it through the drivetrain and therefore the rear wheel.”

To simplify the science, the heated lube is applied and it binds to the clean chain, which consequently runs more efficiently over the components.

This process has undergone rigorous testing by elite cycling teams such as INEOS Grenadiers, EF Education-NIPPO, Canyon/SRAM, Team BMC Pro Triathlon and Team GB.

Does it really work?

I was intrigued to see if this really did work and if there were benefits for a cyclist who is not competing for Grand Tour wins, like me. 

To undertake this experiment, I took a new chain and spent several weeks riding, wearing in the chain to Muc-Off’s recommended usage, which is 500km.  I cycled slightly more, totting up 623km, in total.

Testing round 1 and 2

When I first installed the new chain, I did a control ride on Zwift, to baseline my results.  I decided to undertake this test using a smart trainer to ensure a fair test.  In addition, I noted all the parameters the same, such the course, the in-game bike used as well as measuring my weight. This would be to ensure a when I re-tested, I would use the same settings to ensure a like-for-like test. 

The route I used was a truncated Ven-Top route (on Zwift), measuring 7.6km.  This is an excellent course to undertake such a test because there is a short flat section before the route ramps up.

In my control test, I was able to ride at 331 watts, pushing 4.6 w/kg, completing the course in 21-minutes and 49-seconds.

After 600km kilometres of riding with the new chain, I conducted another test to see if there was a difference in results, so keeping the parameters the same, I conducted a second test.  The results were near identical.

I managed to produce 332 watts, covering the route in 21-minutes and 50-seconds, pushing 4.6 w/kg. 

I was consistent if nothing else and following that last almighty effort, the chain was removed and shipped to Muc-Off, where the chain would be optimized.

Optimized Chain

Several weeks later, I received a neat, black envelope from Muc-Off, which I unpacked with care.

The chain was carefully packaged and had been fully optimized using the Ludicrous AF lube.  It looked better than new.  I carefully installed it on to the bike. 

Just by handling it, you could tell the difference.  It was silky smooth and at the same time, incredibly clean.  When I gave the pedal a crank, you could instantly feel a difference – the chain simply glided over the cassette.  This was something special.

I was fascinated to see how it would perform.

Testing round 3

It was time to put this new chain through its paces.  I used the exact same parameters as the control test, and the results amazed me. 

I was able to generate 342 watts, an increase in power by 10 watts, completing the course in 21-minutes and 16-seconds, which was over 30-seconds quicker than before, gaining 0.1 w/kg over the 20-minute period and 0.2 w/kg over the entire race.

The table below, summarises the results.

Chain TypeDateWattsTimeW/kg (20 mins)
New Chain25/03/202433100:21:494.6
Used Chain29/04/202433200:21:504.6
Muc-Off Ultra sonic13/05/202434200:21:164.7

Results analysed

A 10-watt improvement was big.  To my surprise, when I checked my data in TrainingPeaks it was even better, with 343 watts recorded, meaning the official improvement was 11 watts, which equates to a 3% improvement. And 0.1 w/kg over a 20-minute period.  

This doesn’t really tell the entire story because this test was completed with tired legs after I had completed three consecutive big days of indoor training where I rode the Alp du Zwift, followed by Mount Fuji and then Ven-Top.

What was even more impressive was despite my tired legs, this was my second highest power output of the year, bettered only by 2 watts, which was achieved in the Zwift Games race, which involved Alpe du Zwift, and was event that I had targeted and had been well rested for.

Therefore, with fresh legs, I would expect an extra watt or two.  I was hoping for gains but was not expecting 11 watts.  The biggest noticeable difference was the time, saving over 30 seconds over a relatively short distance which led me to conclude that over a longer climb, this will be minutes.

Cost and where to get this done

Muc-Off’s Ultrasonic Optimisation Service retail at £49.99/€64.99 for application with Ludicrous AF, and £24.99/€32.99 with Hydrodynamic Lube.  To find where you can have this done, click here.

Summing up

Having raced throughout the winter on Zwift, there were occasions where I was lacking a watt or two, which resulted in me being dropped from the front group and consequently not being able to compete for victory.  10 watts is massive in cycling terms, particularly indoor cycling, where the margins are at their finest.  It’s evident that in terms of gains, the results are tangible. 

What the testing does not show is that over a longer ride, there would be energy savings because you would be expelling less effort to ride at the same power and over a 6-hour ride, particularly with a lot of climbing, this would be massive.  It’s no wonder that the top teams are queuing up to use Muc-Off’s Ultrasonic Chain Optimization processes, there simply are no disbenefits and consequently, I have taken my chain off my bike that I ride outside and taken it to be optimized at my local bike shop – money well spent in my opinion, all in the quest for those extra watts.